By Karen Stokes
Mandela Barnes, former two term Wisconsin State Representative and candidate for lieutenant governor has been on the road with running mate Tony Evers to discuss the issues and have conversations with the people of this state.
If elected, Barnes would be the first lieutenant governor of color in Wisconsin history.
“Being a statewide elected official means that there’s a different voice that hasn’t been there before, especially with issues of equity. Equality is one thing but equity is another. We tried to put the emphasis on equity making sure that everybody has a chance to succeed in this state. A lot of people have been left behind especially when there’s a stark contrast between racial lines, having that voice is even more important,” Barnes said.
“I am an MPS graduate, I was born in the 53206 area, my experiences have been a little bit different than other people who has held statewide office,” Barnes added. “I’ve lost friends to gun violence and my friends have fallen into the criminal justice system. I’m not talking about these things because I’ve read some report or some study that somebody put in front of me, it’s because I unfortunately had to be exposed to some of the worst things that happen in our state, especially in terms of racial inequality.”
In addition, Barnes addressed some other topics that are a concern for Wisconsin voters. A huge concern for the voters is quality, affordable healthcare.
“Scott Walker has had eight years to address healthcare,” Barnes said. “He rejected federal Medicaid expansion which left 77,000 more people without access to Badgercare and Walker’s frivolous lawsuit with the attorney general to try once again to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. We would withdraw the state from the lawsuit because it is dangerous and it doesn’t benefit the people of this state in any way. Right now because of the ACA, pre-existing conditions are able to be covered.”
He stated that we must first make sure we have an economy that works for everyone. He believes Wisconsin needs to invest in is renewable energy.
“Making sure that we are investing in renewable energy, that’s the path forward across the country, that’s where job creation is happening. Between 2016-2017 there was about 16 percent job growth in wind energy and about 24 percent growth in solar energies. Those are industries that we are really missing out on,” said Barnes.
As lieutenant governor, one of Barnes concerns is Wisconsin’s infrastructure.
24/7 Wall Street created an index to identify the states with the best and worst on infrastructure. Wisconsin ranked 8th in the country for the worst infrastructure.
“Republicans can’t run on their own record. Our roads are among one of the worst in the nation and they had eight years to do something about it and they have not,” Barnes said.
“It’s a priorities issue, [the money] is there but they’re spending it wrong. The bulk of tax breaks have gone to the most wealthy individuals and large corporations,” Barnes added. “We have to shift the way we fund our roads we have to be smarter and think about long term growth. We’re only borrowing money right now, it’s a dangerous road for us to be on, to continue borrowing. That’s why we haven’t been able to fund our road projects as we should.”
With a plethora of negative campaign ads the people of Wisconsin had to endure, Barnes was a target.
Current Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch caused an uproar when she falsely accused Barnes of kneeling during the national anthem at State Fair Park, even though she personally didn’t witness it and was unable to name any witnesses. She later had to apology. There was also stories about a lingerie party that Barnes fraternity hosted in 2009 when he was 22.
“There were no complaints, it was just a party,” said Barnes. “That’s what they want to use, it’s desperation. They have done nothing to advance the cause of gender equality, whether it’s healthcare or equal pay..nothing.
“I didn’t fight back because it was so ridiculous. We can waste time spinning our wheels talking about distractions or we can talk about the real issues that matter,” Barnes said. “That’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
Tony Evers and I have a great relationship as running mates and I expect us to have that same relationship in governing and I want to be able to be active in Tony’s legislative strategy as a former state representative,” Barnes said. “I still have relationships in the legislature on both sides of the aisle and I want to maximize on that. We are pushing a bold agenda to improve a lot of people’s lives across the state of Wisconsin with education, our environment, healthcare and also improving our economy.”
“This race is meeting with a vision. It’s talking about improving our economy, expanding access to quality and affordable healthcare, creating living wage jobs, fully funding our public schools,” said Barnes. “it comes back to talking about those issues and talking about them where they matter making sure that people are being heard.”